Until Wednesday, Rob Porter was the White House staff secretary. Long before Wednesday, many of the people to whom he reported knew he had physically abused and assaulted both of his wives. Colbie Holderness, Porter’s first wife, and Jennifer Willoughby, Porter’s second wife, both told the FBI their marriages had ended because of a pattern of physical and emotional abuse. According to their accounts, supported by photos, contemporaneous reporting to others, and a blog post written by Willoughby last April, Porter kicked these women, he punched and choked one of these women, he blackened one of these women’s eyes. He berated and insulted these women. Police were called. But Rob Porter is also white, and the son of a prominent academic and thinker. He went to Harvard and Oxford, and he had a high-ranking job in the Oval Office, and was reportedly pressing for a higher one. He was dating Hope Hicks, one of the president’s closest confidantes. So nobody did a thing about the allegations.
Please stop saying that women don’t tell. These women told. They told the stories of likely the most intimate and traumatic moments of their lives to family and church elders and friends and counselors and FBI officers, and they saw the following happen: Porter was not given full clearance. He was, however, given an interim security clearance. Senior staff in the White House knew why his clearance was snagged by the fall. According to Politico, John Kelly, Donald Trump’s chief of staff and Porter’s boss, also knew of the 2010 protective order against Porter. Don McGahn, the White House counsel, also knew, according to Politico, because in recent weeks a third woman, an ex-girlfriend of Porter’s who also works in the Trump administration, told him that Porter had abused her and his two ex-wives.
But right up until 9:31 p.m. Eastern on Wednesday night, John Kelly was standing by Rob Porter. Even when others had distanced themselves, John Kelly reiterated his opinion that Porter had true integrity and honor.
Sen. Orrin Hatch (R–Utah), for whom Porter had previously served as chief of staff, initially told the Daily Mail the allegations against Porter came from lying “character assassins.”
Taken together, all the grown-ups in the room protected, privileged, and covered for Rob Porter despite everything they knew about his pattern of abuse, because his career was important to them. Even well-educated, high-status, articulate white women who were lawfully married to Porter didn’t matter enough to be taken seriously.
Please stop asking why women don’t come forward. These women did. They believed that once the police, the FBI, the White House, and John Kelly knew what they knew, Porter would stop ascending in their ranks. They were wrong.
Dozens of White House employees are awaiting permanent security clearances and have been working for months with temporary approvals to handle sensitive information while the FBI continues to probe their backgrounds, according to U.S. officials.
People familiar with the security-clearance process said one of those White House officials with an interim approval is Jared Kushner — the president’s son-in-law and one of his most influential advisers.
The issue of clearances has become a major area of concern since White House staff secretary Rob Porter resigned after allegations surfaced that he had been violent toward his two ex-wives — accusations he has denied.
The fact that the 2016 election was dominated by coverage of whether Hillary Clinton was engaged in information security best practices is truly ten thousand spoons when all you need is a knife.
Given the passion they exhibited in 2016 for high standards in the handling of classified information, these revelations will devastate Trump’s standing with the GOP base and lead to dozens of hearings by congressional Republicans. https://t.co/ZMJCAG2MeF
— Matthew Yglesias (@mattyglesias) February 9, 2018